When I was very young (single digits), summers often meant walks to the beach with my mom. We lived maybe eight or ten blocks from the ocean, though the closest part was all rocky cliffs and no beach. I’d say it was a mile and a half to the nearest actual beach. But the extra distance was no matter as it was always a nice little excursion along the meandering, tree-lined lanes leading down to the crashing waves, the sand, the tide pools, and that vast expanse of deep, deep blue.
On one such walk, I found a gold bracelet in the gutter. It had very small emeralds inset in each rectangular section. I gave it to my mom. She, being the good soul she is, took out an ad in the Lost & Found section of the local paper. No one called. I’m pretty sure she still has the bracelet somewhere.
But I digress. This story is about another walk.
Clad in shades of blue with his oversize brown leather satchel, our local mailman had passed us on the sidewalk moments before, readying envelopes for the next house on his route, lessening his load by a few small ounces at a time. While this had undoubtedly occurred dozens of times in the past, this occasion set wheels and gears flying into motion inside my mom’s head. She began wondering out loud to me why there are only mailMEN and never any mailWOMEN. (Mind you, this was the early 1970s and gender barriers at many workplaces were still rigidly in place. So this wasn’t as strange a question as it may sound these days.) Naturally, at eight years old, I had absolutely no answer for her.
We continued on our stroll under the clear, cloudless blue sky, the morning sun warming the air and our backs, and her thoughts soon left her unanswered question behind. Our conversation surely went off in other directions. While I can’t recall any clear details of the rest of the walk down or that particular day at the beach, something happened on the way back that is etched in my memory. We had just crossed the boulevard when my mom spotted her across the street. Clad in blue with the oversize brown leather satchel, she — SHE! — walked in the rear entrance of the local pharmacy.
My mom was stunned. Such an amazing coincidence! She had to know how long this woman had been working as a mail carrier.
After quickly admonishing me to stay right where I was, not to go anywhere at all, my mom hurried across the street and into the pharmacy after her heretofore mythical quarry. It couldn’t have been even a minute before she was back out and on her way across the street again. With a strange look on her face and a sparkle in her eye.
“I found her right away. She was waiting to be helped at the counter. I went up to her and asked, ‘I hope you don’t mind my asking, but how long have you been a mail woman?’
“She seemed confused and said, ‘I beg your pardon?’
“I said, ‘I’m sorry but you’re the first female letter carrier I’ve ever seen. In fact, I was just wondering this morning why there aren’t any and here you are! I just want to know how long you’ve worked for the Post Office.’
“She got the most offended look on her face and said, ‘Madam, I am NOT a letter carrier and I do NOT work for the Post Office!’
“I said, ‘Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I saw the bag and the blue clothes, and I just assumed you were.”
At which point in her recounting, my mom burst into laughter and said,
“She’s probably going to go straight home and throw that entire outfit away!”
I daresay she was right.